Sunday, July 23, 2017

Trip Story: Monument Valley and Surroundings

In my last post about our 2017 Summer Road Trip, I wrote about our visits to Walnut Canyon and the Grand Canyon.

Not long after we left the Grand Canyon, we came to the Little Colorado River Gorge overlook. We were tempted to skip it. After the Grand Canyon, it was sure to be underwhelming, right? No, it wasn't. I'm glad we stopped. It is a much more compact gorge, but also a beautiful spot.

The gorge

Near the gorge.

Our next stop was at a set of dinosaur tracks just outside of Tuba City. There is something awe-inspiring about standing and looking at the tracks of creatures so long extinct.

Dino track

However, Petunia, our resident dino-lover, was underwhelmed. I think she prefers dinosaur bones.

Or maybe she was just getting hungry. We were running a bit later than I'd hoped, and she'd been promised McDonald's for lunch. She got her Happy Meal once we got to Tuba City, and perked up for our visit to the Navajo Museum, which was across the street from the McDonald's. This museum was not in existence the last time I came through Tuba City, and I was glad we got a chance to visit it. It provided a great introduction to Navajo culture and history.

From Tuba City, we headed toward Kayenta, where I'd read there was a Codetalker museum in the Burger King. There was indeed a small, but really good, museum in the Kayenta Burger King. The owner's father was a Codetalker and had supplied the core items for the exhibit.

On our way to Kayenta, we stopped to admire the Elephant Feet:



The drive to Kayenta and from Kayenta to Monument Valley was beautiful. I can't do justice to describing the scenery, with dramatic mesas and buttes, red rocks, and a brilliant blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds. It was the sort of scenery that made me wish I could paint. I could imagine retiring to the area and living out my days trying to capture the colors.

We pulled into Monument Valley not long before sunset. We had booked into The View, which is the only hotel in the tribal park, and promised that every room would have a spectacular view of Monument Valley. That promise was definitely fulfilled. I put the view from our balcony in the awards show post, so here I'll put a sunset picture Mr. Snarky took from the viewing area near the hotel restaurant.



The next morning, we got up to watch the sunrise from our balcony. It was beautiful and would have been peaceful, except Petunia was annoyed at being woken up early and periodically let us know that. Lesson learned: we should have just let her sleep while the rest of us watched the sunrise!

After breakfast, we met up with our guide from Dineh Bekeyah tours, who took us on a 2.5 hour tour of Monument Valley. This was one of the highlights of the entire trip for me. The tour took in a lot of famous monuments, a visit to a hogan that included a demonstration of traditional weaving techniques (sometime, I'll visit the Navajo Nation when I'm feeling wealthy enough to buy a rug... they are simply gorgeous), a look at some petroglyphs, and a chance to lie back against the cool rock while looking up at "the eagle's eye" and listening to our guide play his traditional flute.



It was a great morning.

After our tour, we checked out of the hotel and headed north. We drove to a little town just outside the reservation, called Mexican Hat. It is named for a rock that looks like a sombrero. We saw its namesake rock as we drove out of toen, but our only stop in the area was at The Old Bridge Grille Cafe, where I had my last fry bread of the trip for lunch.

From Mexican Hat, we drove straight to Moab, a two hour drive through pretty country. We had thought we might try to watch the sunset at the Delicate Arch viewpoint in Arches National Park, but we arrived in Moab to discover that roadworks were underway in the park, and the road would be closed at 7 p.m., well before sunset. So we had a swim and had dinner, and saved the visit to Arches for the next day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Heading to a Wedding Edition

I don't get to rollerblade today, because we have a wedding to go to. I thought maybe I could still squeeze in an outing... but no luck. Oh well.

Instead of a rollerblade, I took a short post-lunch nap. My husband found an interesting looking new mystery show on Acorn, called Loch Ness. He pitched it to me as a mix of Hinterland and The Brokenwood Mysteries, which sounded great. So we started watching it, and... it is good, but it is not like Hinterland and Brokenwood! Each episode in those series is a self-contained mystery. In Loch Ness, there is one mystery stretched across the entire series. This makes it harder to stop after one episode. It also increases the chances that I'll end up having weird dreams involving the show. So we stayed up too late last night watching the first three episodes and I still had weird dreams. SIGH. Hence, the short nap so that I am not a grumpy mess for the wedding we're going to.

Anyhow, on to the links for the week.

I found the Pod Save the World episode with Julia Ioffe ("Why Did Putin Do It?") really interesting and a bit scary. I recommend it, though, if you want to try to understand what we're up against.

Speaking of scary, this Brian Beutler piece... yikes. But also true. And then James Fallows' note about it is depressing, because I can't honestly say I have confidence that three Republicans in the Senate will step up if it comes to that.

If you, like me, have been reading Josh Marshall on the Russia connection since during the campaign, you'd probably be unsettled by the fact that he is now arguing it is probably worse than we think. But I can't argue with his points. We're in scary territory.

Meanwhile, healthcare... the Senate repeal effort came back from the dead. Even though the CBO found a big problem: some of the plans it would create violate existing laws. Of course, those laws could be changed, but maybe not via the reconciliation process.

And speaking of the reconciliation process, the "Byrd bath" has begun... here is an explanation of what that means. But details of what BCRA provisions are not going to make it through are not yet out anywhere I can find to link to them. This tweet thread has some early details:




To be honest, I am having a hard time keeping up on what is going on with healthcare. That is may be by design, I don't know. I do know that if I lived in a state with a Republican senator, I'd be calling every week to reiterate my opposition to this mess.

In other healthcare news, it looks like the Trump administration used taxpayer money to run ads undermining the ACA.

Moving on....

I hadn't seen this story about John McCain and Mo Udall before.

This book on the decline of White Christian America looks interesting, and would probably help me understand why so many white Christians feel under attack. I will try to make time to read it.

In personal promo/cross links news:

Here's the cover reveal for Water into Wine, the next Annorlunda Books release. It will be out September 27, 2017 and available for pre-order August 30.

I made a beach lounger I made for Petunia's teddy bear.

And now my husband is hovering wondering when I'm going to get ready for the wedding... so I'll close out. Here's this week's cute bunnies:


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trip Story: Camp Verde, Walnut Canyon, and the Grand Canyon.

I think it is time to start posting stories from our 2017 road trip!

Our vacation this year started from Mesa. We'd left our kids there the week before, after celebrating my grandparents' 75th wedding anniversary with my family. We enjoyed a kid-free week at home before once again making the ~6 hour drive to Mesa to pick up the kids and start vacationing.

The plan was to leave Mesa mid-morning and drive to Sedona for lunch. My Dad warned me that there were often traffic jams on I-17 and maybe we should take a different route, but I was sure we could handle it. I must officially admit that my father was right. There was a several hour traffic jam on I-17, caused by a car fire. We ended up having to give up on Sedona and instead had lunch in Camp Verde.

(Aside: including the burned out hulk left after the traffic jam-inducing fire, we passed the aftermath of at least five car fires on this trip. Hot weather and mountain climbs are not a good mix, I guess.)

Anyway, our detour to Camp Verde turned out to be a nice one. We had lunch at Verde Brewing Company, a very good brewpub. It was so good that Mr. Snarky was tempted by the lifetime beer offer.



That is not an economical option for people who live in San Diego, though, so he contented himself with what the described as the best BLT ever and a pint of IPA.

We hadn't really acclimated to the heat yet, so no one had much interest in exploring Camp Verde. Everyone whined at me when I wanted to walk half a block to see this old building, which turned out to be the old prison.


We got back into our air conditioned car and drove on to Walnut Canyon. This is a National Monument, so was our first chance to use our 4th grader parks pass. This pass was awesome, even if you don't consider the amount of money it saved us. Every ranger who saw that pass was very enthusiastic about it, and made Pumpkin feel special. I hope the program is still around for Petunia's 4th grade year.

Walnut Canyon is a beautiful spot, but what makes it really special is the chance to see and even go inside of the remains of Ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings.

The cliff dwellings are those holes in the cliff.

I always marvel at how people lived in these canyons. They must have been very good climbers. The ranger explained that one of the reasons Walnut Canyon was a good place for the Ancient Puebloans to live is that the cliffs both offered protections from storms and made it easier to gather water.

After our short hike in Walnut Canyon, we drove on to Tusayan, a small town that is basically a base camp for visits to the Grand Canyon.

The next morning, we took the park bus to the Grand Canyon. We could have driven in, and were in fact up early enough that we would have been sure of getting parking. But the bus stop was right outside our hotel, and we liked the idea of helping to reduce traffic and pollution in the park. This time of year, the road that goes to the most popular overlooks and the in park hotels is closed to anyone not actually staying in the park, so we would have just been driving in to park our car, anyway. I think this is great: the buses ran frequently and the lack of cars made the visit a little more peaceful, even though there were still hordes of people.

I am rather pleased with how my plan for our Grand Canyon visit worked out. We started at the visitor center to pick up our Junior Ranger books. Every National Park, Monument, or Historic Site we visited had a Junior Ranger program: the kids complete some easy exercises, take a somewhat hokey pledge to protect the park and educate others about it, and then they get a badge. Our kids love collecting those badges!

After we collected our books, we set out to walk a portion of the Rim Trail. This was a long walk, but there were plenty of places to refill our water bottles, and I'd brought lots of snacks. We stopped frequently to admire the view, take pictures, and work on the ranger books.



Visibility wasn't terrific for our visit, due to a wildfire in the region. We still got some nice views, though.

Mr. Snarky usually waits patiently to get pictures without other people in them,
but in this case, the people give a sense of the scale.

We did not do any hiking into the canyon, but we did get a great view of the famous Bright Angel trail. This is the trail that goes to the canyon floor.

The trail is the ribbon of read running down the slope.

Bright Angel is, unfortunately, a killer trail... literally. People die trying to hike to the floor and back in a day, particularly in the summer. It was a warm but not uncomfortable 90 degrees on the rim. On the floor, it was probably over 110. The signs the park service puts up warning people about hiking into the canyon are really explicit about the risks, and still people do it and get in trouble. People die of heat exhaustion and also of hyponatremia. People who are not accustomed to a dry heat don't always realize how much they are sweating! Still, some day, I'd like to hike that trail. I would not try to make it back up on the same day. The people I know who hike it and enjoy it always spend at least one night on the canyon floor.

Anyhow, we didn't do anything like that, and just stayed on the nice, flat, paved Rim Trail. We made it to the Village by lunchtime, and had lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge. The food was nothing special, but the old lodge is pretty cool. After lunch, we boarded a bus to Hermit's Rest. The wind had picked up, and so we didn't end up lingering at this stop or doing the short walk part of the way back that I'd planned. Instead, we had a snack, I failed to buy the water bottle in a leather pouch Petunia really wanted (I was sure they'd have it back at the shop at the Visitor's Center. They did not. I heard about this for the entire remainder of the trip.) and we got back on a bus. We got off to admire a couple of viewpoints, but then went back to the Visitor Center to get the kids their badges. From there, we got back on the bus back to the hotel.

On the way out of the park, the bus screeched to a halt. A car had stopped in the middle of the road. This seemed odd... but it turned out the occupants were admiring some wildlife.

Well-documented wildlife

The kids got their swim in the hotel, and we had dinner and decent margaritas at Plaza Bonita, a Mexican restaurant near the hotel.

Then next day, we drove into the park. We turned right at the Visitor's Center and drove to see the Tusayan ruin (pretty cool, the grown ups thought) and then the Desert View Watchtower.

The watchtower

Pumpkin in the watchtower. The paintings on the wall are reproductions of the type
of rock art found in the region.

The kids were more impressed by the Desert Watchtower, even though it is not nearly as old as the ruin. They liked climbing all the stairs, and Pumpkin liked taking pictures of the view. The watchtower was built in the 1930s, and was designed by architect Mary Colter, who drew from inspiration from the Native American buildings she had seen in the region. Some of the interior artwork was done by a Hopi artist named Fred Kabotie. It is an interesting reminder of the history of tourism at the Grand Canyon, and of our changing opinions about how to accommodate it. If you're curious, you can read more about the watchtower on this NPS site.

The view from the watchtower includes a good view of the Colorado River.
After admiring more views of the Grand Canyon and the desert to the East of it, we headed on out of the park. I'll pick up that story next time.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Getting Back to Work Edition

So, we're back from vacation. I'm revitalized by the time off, but also struggling to catch up and to convince myself that yes, I really should be working and not out hiking in the Sierras or something. This morning, Petunia had a meltdown right before it was time to go to camp. I think she may be missing vacation, too. She really likes her camp this week, but sleeping in and eating ice cream is more fun than just about anything, really.

Anyhow, I've been pretty productive this week, but not so good about reading things and finding links for you, so this will probably be a short post. Also, Petunia's camp has a final performance and I need to wrap up early to go see that and then go for my rollerblade because nothing motivates me to make sure I get my exercise like seeing the pictures of me from vacation.

First a little promo: right before vacation, I dropped the ebook price for Love and Other Happy Endings. You can now try out one of my anthologies of classic short stories for just $0.99.

On to the links:

Alexandra Petri on Donald Trump, Jr., is spot on.

A great, thoughtful post about Appalachia and poverty, from someone who grew up there.

This is an interesting op-ed about the current state of politics in the US.

California has really cut its maternal death rate and North Carolina has cur the racial disparities in its maternal death rate. If only we were talking about how to expand and build on these programs, instead of facing the possibility that Medicaid will be gutted and those of us with pre-existing conditions will be facing uncertain access to insurance.

The Cook Islands have just created one of the world's largest marine preserves.

Hee Hee




Bunnies!




Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Politics on Vacation

This morning, an article came across my Twitter feed about Salt Lake City losing a big outdoor retailer convention due to the State government's lack of support for public lands. (Here is a more in depth article on the subject forwarded to me by Bad Mom, Good Mom.) I would like to read more about the local politics of this, but probably won't because time is finite, you know? But it did make me think of these signs we saw as we walked around Salt Lake City:

The sign on the right says "Utah Stands with Bears Ears"

For those who haven't followed the Bears Ears saga, one of the arguments in favor of making that area a National Monument is that the local Native American tribes consider it a sacred place and have asked for National Monument status to protect it. For me, that is the only argument we should need. The land was theirs to begin with. But American (and specifically, American West) politics being what they are, it was always going to be a controversy.

What was interesting to me while traveling in the area was that the controversy doesn't necessarily sort cleanly on Republican-Democrat lines. I saw those "Utah Stands with Bears Ears" signs in yards that also sported signs for an upcoming city council election, and the Bears Ears signs co-existed with signs from competing candidates. I also saw postcards the tribes had put out urging people to contact the Department of Interior in support of Bears Ears in many places, including some places I wouldn't have expected, like the little bar and grill we ate lunch at in Mexican Hat.

I didn't ask anyone about the issue, though, because I didn't want to bring up politics on this trip. Honestly, I never do: that's not the type of traveler I am. But this year, in particular, I thought it best just to avoid politics.

But what could we do when we came across this sign outside the Utah State Capitol?



We saw some people taking photos, and thought they were getting a weird angle on the Capitol. But when we crossed the street, we saw that the Capitol wasn't the subject of the photo at all.

We didn't get a photo of our favorite political sign, though. This one was on the small road we took out to see the southern tufa formations at Mono Lake. We passed an "adopt-a-highway" sign that announced this stretch of road was cleaned by "One of them June Lake liberals." That is a direct quote.

Although I was avoiding discussing politics, the vacation was over the 4th of July, and like many Americans who are worried about the Trump administration, I found this year's 4th a weird one. I thought a bit more than usual about patriotism, and what makes me proud (and not so proud) of my country. The times on the trip I felt proudest of my country were the visits to the national and state parks and historic sites. We have so many beautiful and special places, and I am proud that we are protecting them and working to make the accessible to everyone. Also, every park ranger we spoke to was great: helpful, friendly, and enthusiastic. Our kids did the Junior Ranger programs wherever they could, and collected quite a few new badges. Every ranger who talked to them as a part of those programs was great and encouraging. With the exception of the traffic jam in Yosemite, I was impressed with how the parks were run. A lot of care goes into making sure visitors of all types have a good experience.

The time I felt the least proud of my country was actually on the 4th of July. This wasn't because of the general sadness I felt about the state of affairs. It was because as we walked back to our car after watching the parade and seeing some of the sights in Virginia City, we passed a house that was displaying a giant Confederate flag. I'd seen several trinkets with Confederate flags on one of the shops in town, too. Now, Nevada was never part of the Confederacy. In fact, its state slogan is "Battle Born" because it joined the Union during the Civil War. There is no "heritage" in flying the Confederate flag in Nevada, or in selling trinkets with that flag on them. There is just hate. I am ashamed that flag is being flown more and more often in places without even the tenuous claim to be treating it as part of their heritage.

On the flip side of that experience, though: One of the groups marching in the Virginia City parade was a group representing the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, and they got one of the biggest cheers of the parade. The juxtaposition of those two things is probably a pretty accurate representation of the state of things right now.

And that's enough about politics for now. Next week, I'll get into the stories about the wonderful places we visited.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Western Road Trip: The Award Show Version

We're just back from our summer vacation, which means it is time for my traditional vacation awards show post. (If you want to see earlier editions of this post, start with last year's and click your way back to the first one.)

This year's summer vacation was a road trip. We visited sites in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. This meant covering more distance than we usually do: we put almost 3000 miles on our car! We still managed to avoid any super long days driving, but it did mean more car time than we'd tried before. It worked out fairly well. I am not sure it would have gone so well when the kids were younger, but they are old enough now that we could buy them off with gas station treats (what my kids will put up with for Starburst and Gatorade...) and promises of swims in the hotel pool.

Anyhow, it was a fun trip. The kids spent the week before the trip with my parents in Arizona. We picked them up and drove to the Grand Canyon. Then we headed to Monument Valley, followed by Moab (Arches National Park). From Moab, we drove to Salt Lake City. After a couple of days there, we drove across northern Nevada, spending one night in Elko (but sadly, arriving just a couple of hours after this year's Basque Festival wrapped up) and a couple of nights in Carson City (with a side trip to Virginia City for July 4th). We dipped our toes in Lake Tahoe (I want to go back and explore it properly!) then headed down the eastern side of the Sierras, spending three nights in Lee Vining. From there, we explored Yosemite, saw Mono Lake, and visited Bodie State Park. Our final night of the trip was in Ridgecrest, picked mainly for the timing of the drive, but also because I wanted to stop in to see Manzanar and so didn't want to try to push too much further that day.

If you're noticing a lot of National Parks, that was by design: Pumpkin just finished her 4th grade year, so she got us in for free! I'll write up trip story posts about the trip and will try to remember to come back and link them here. But now, without further ado, the awards:

Best Hotel: This was a split decision. The grown ups chose The View, the Navajo-run hotel that is actually in the Monument Valley Tribal Park. It lives up to its name. Here was the view from our balcony (and from every room's balcony):

The View.
The restaurant also had excellent fry bread.

Pumpkin chose River Canyon Lodge, in Moab, because she liked the room (it was nice: a two bedroom suite with a balcony) and the pool. It was also really close to a park with a nice playground, and a short walk to restaurants. Petunia chose the Canyon Plaza Resort, in Tusayan (near the Grand Canyon). I am not 100% sure why, but I think it was because she liked the pancakes at the breakfast buffet and also there was an indoor hot tub with a fountain.

Best Restaurant: Another split decision. Pumpkin and I picked Epic Cafe in Lee Vining. Pumpkin liked their pasta and the grassy lawn where the tables were set up. I liked the food, and the chilled out atmosphere. We ate there on our first night in town, and then went back for the last night, when Mr. Snarky and I split a bottle of wine and enjoyed some chill out time and the peak view of Mono Lake while the kids played on the grass.

Mr. Snarky really liked  Epic Cafe, too, but picks The Martin Hotel, a Basque restaurant in Winnemucca, NV, as his top meal of the trip. I agree that the garlic soup was very good, and it did seem that he was having something of a religious experience eating his lamb shank. Petunia's choice is the Brio Tuscan Grill, in the City Creek shopping center in Salt Lake City, where she had "the best spaghetti ever." (Their food was good, and I think the pasta was fresh, which is probably why Petunia liked it so much.)

Best Tourist Activity/Experience: There was no agreement on this one. I picked the 2 hour jeep tour we did of Monument Valley with Dineh BeKeyah Tours. Our guide was wonderful, the views were wonderful, the hogan visit was wonderful, it was just all around wonderful. Mr. Snarky picked Arches National Park, which surprised me because that was probably our most uncomfortably hot stop, and he's not a fan of the heat. But he likes red rocks, I guess. (Arches is spectacular!) Pumpkin picked Yosemite, for the views and the fact that we got to play in the snow up near Tuolumne Meadows. Petunia also loved the snow play, but chose the carnival/fun fair we visited in Carson City as her favorite thing. She begged us to go, and had a blast on the rides while there.

Best Playground: Hands down, Swanny City Park in Moab, near our hotel. We all agreed, possibly because it was the one playground we visited in the evening, when it wasn't hot. (Note: this may be one of the last years this category appears. Pumpkin is already feeling too old for most playgrounds, and I suspect Petunia will join her in that opinion soon.)

Best Frozen Treat: I say it was at Steve's Homemade Ice Cream, in Fernley, NV (we stopped on the way into Carson City). Mr. Snarky agrees this ice cream was good and thinks this is a silly category, so says "sure, that was the best." The kids understand the importance of this category, and choose Bahama Buck's, which we stopped at in Provo.

Best Unplanned Roadside Stop: The Bonneville Salt Flats! How did I not find out about these when I was researching this trip? Walking out on that much salt is a weird and fun experience. The kids also enjoyed making "ice balls." We chose not to drive out onto the salt in our loaded down Mazda 5, but lots of other people were doing so.

All that white stuff is salt.

The runner up in this category was Walker Burger, a delightful little burger/ice cream stand we stopped at on the way to Lee Vining. It wasn't completely unplanned, in that I'd looked for a place to get ice cream for an afternoon snack. But the nice shady patio was a complete surprise!

This picture does not do the Walker's patio justice.

Best Museum: The grown ups both pick Manzanar, which is technically a National Historic Site, but has an excellent museum. Both kids had trouble choosing: Pumpkin says it was either the This Is The Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City or the Salt Lake City Planetarium, while Petunia says it was either This Is The Place or the "Dinosaur museum" (the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum, which had some really interested archaeological exhibits as well as cool dinos).

Best Hike: For me, it was the Soda Springs trail in the Tuolumne Meadows section of Yosemite, hands down. The scenery was beautiful, the trail wasn't crowded, the springs were cool, and we saw lots of deer, including four bucks that ran past within about six feet of me and Petunia. Mr. Snarky says it was the hike to see Landscape Arch in Arches, which only he completed because it was hot and the kids refused to leave the final patch of shade. I stayed with them because I'd been on the trail before, and saw Landscape Arch then. Petunia says it was the portion of the Rim Trail we walked at the Grand Canyon. Pumpkin refuses to choose, but says "anything but Arches." (She is clearly forgetting how cool she thought Balancing Rock was, and also the nice hike/scramble she and Petunia had in the shade provided by The Organ at the Courthouse Towers viewpoint.)

Worst Thing: I say it was the mosquitoes that bit me at least 8 times while we were taking a hike we didn't need to take outside of Moab. We were looking for some rock art that turned out to be on the other side of the parking area. Mr. Snarky says it was hot playgrounds. (Note to playground designers in places that get hot: put in shade. For the kids AND the grown ups watching them!) Pumpkin says it was the long car rides. Petunia agrees the long car rides weren't the best, but says the way we kept messing with her dinner and bedtime schedule was worse.

Biggest Regret: For me, it was not having the kids just wear their swimsuits on the day we drove to Lake Tahoe. We went to Sand Harbor, which was gorgeous, but the kids didn't appreciate it because what they really wanted to do was go for a swim. This was predictable, and we could have let them. Mr. Snarky regrets not figuring out the July 4th schedule for Red's Old 395 Grill in Carson City. We pulled up as they closed. On the bright side, we went to the Fox Brewpub instead, and it was excellent with a very pleasant patio. Pumpkin regrets packing her portable piano (a rollout thing, about the size of a high school dictionary), since she didn't touch it once. Petunia didn't really understand this concept, and said she regretted not convincing me to buy her the fringed leather water bottle holder she liked at the Grand Canyon.

And that's it for the award show wrap up. I'll start in on the proper posts soon!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Going Quiet Edition

I have some vacation time coming up, and will be pretty scarce (or completely absent) around here for a bit. If you miss me, you can always read my archives, I guess.

But before I go quiet, here are some links for you:

My "if you read only one thing, make it this" link for the week is Rebecca Onion's interview with historian Nancy McLean about James McGill Buchanan and the intellectual underpinnings of Charles Koch's donor activism. I think we need to recognize that the goals of some of the big GOP donors are not what they are presented as. Here's a quote from the piece:

"The reality is that they are gerrymandering with a vengeance, to a degree we’ve never seen before in our history; they’re practicing voter suppression in a way we’ve not seen since Reconstruction; they are smashing up labor unions under fake pretenses, not telling people that they actually do want to destroy workers’ ability to organize collectively ... I could go on and on.

They’re doing a lot of things for strategic reasons and not being honest with the public about it."

Here's another scary one: what happens when the man abusing you is a cop.

Scary in a different way: The science of the heat wave that hit Arizona this week. (I can tell you from personal experience that 120 feels a lot different from 115...)

Sarah Kliff at Vox is one of my go-to sources for understanding what's going on with the healthcare bills. She had a post earlier this week about why the GOP are likely to pass it, even though it is really, really unpopular. The short answer is because they campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare, so they think they need to deliver. I think this is probably true. However, I also don't think they really campaigned on this sort of repeal and replace. We heard a lot about how premiums were unaffordable and the markets were going to go into a death spiral and the like... and both of those things get worse under their bill. So the question is, will their voters punish them for that? I honestly don't know.

Meanwhile, in California, we're looking at a single payer system. The LA Times answered some questions about that. I think the potential issue of people moving into the state just to get healthcare is one that will get a lot of discussion. We have a strong job market... but we're already struggling with affordable housing, so I don't know how voters will come down on this.

Are cats really domesticated? Eh, maybe not.

Here's a bunny inspecting a camera:




And here's a kakapo doing the same!




And that's all I have for now. I'll see you in a few weeks!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Only Happy Things Edition

I have an extra couple of kids in my house today, and a to do list I don't think I'm going to finish. I haven't decided whether or not that means I have to abandon my plans to take the weekend completely off. It depends on whether I can get through all the "must do" items, I guess.

And my heart is hurting from the news this week. There is just too much terrible news this week.

So, this is going to be a short and unusual links post. I'm just going to share some things that made me smile this week.

First, though: I'm running a GoodReads giveaway for Hemmed In. Enter it for a chance to win a free paperback copy of Hemmed In!

This story about a little girl who saw a bride and thought she was a princess from a book cover she loves is sweet.

Auckland lights up for Matariki.

An indigenous viewpoint on a Van Gogh exhibition. This is really interesting, so it is my "if you only read one" recommendation this week.

People perpetuating national stereotypes in floods:




Wait for it... this is quite the subway performance.




Here are some beautiful bunnies:




Another bunny:




Happy weekend, everyone! Here's hoping that next week is less terrible.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some Old-Fashioned Mom Blogging: Keeping a 10 Year Old Challenged

The political situation here continues to be depressing and somewhat scary, for a variety of reasons. The end of school year crunch is in full swing. We're packing the kids for a visit to my parents. We're driving them all the way over this year, because there is also my grandparents' 75th(!!!) wedding anniversary to celebrate. And I have a lot of work I need to get done this week, which may be somewhat hampered by the fact that I'll have two extra kids in my house on Friday (school is out tomorrow, and I arranged a child care exchange with another family to get us through to the weekend).

But I'm going to ignore that all for a bit and talk about my kids. They are getting so big: 7 and 10 now. I don't write about them as much because less of their story feels like mine to tell. I miss writing about parenting, but now that the issues we deal with are more individualized, it is harder for me to figure out how to write about it. A lot of babies wake up in the night. A lot of toddlers are picky eaters. There were individual details in our experiences, but the broad experience was widely shared. That is not so true now. I can see it when the old day care crew gets together. We still talk about our kids. We've known each other since our now 10 year olds were babies! But we aren't all commiserating about the same problems anymore. We're all figuring out different issues.

The parenting thing I'm currently thinking about the most is how to make sure Pumpkin gets to stretch her skills at the "right" level, whatever that is. She recently told me she's been bored at school a lot these last couple of months, which is what got me thinking about this. We chose the Spanish immersion school for a lot of reasons: we wanted our kids to learn a second language, it is close to our house, we liked the school... but also because we hoped the language immersion would stave off boredom.

The immersion program bought us through 2nd grade, I think. There was a lot of language to learn, since we are not a Spanish speaking household. Then her 3rd grade teacher was really good at challenging different kids in different ways. Her 4th grade teachers were great, too- it was a team taught classroom, and I really liked some of the things they did. But for whatever reason, she got bored. I don't know if this is due to the increase in class size that comes with 4th grade here, or if the curriculum is less hard-charging in 4th grade, or if it was just when it was going to happen.

She did a lot of independent reading in class because she was finished with her work, and with the extra credit assignments on offer. I don't really mind that. I certainly did a lot of independent reading in school, too. But since she said she was bored, I think that's not enough. So I'm thinking about what we might do.

She really, really wants to stay at her school through 8th grade. I like that idea, too, for the convenience, and for the fact that at the end of 8th grade she should be able to pass the AP Spanish exam and also an exam that assesses biliteracy. These things seem like good things. I also like what I've seen of the culture of the middle school at our school, and think it would be good for her.

So, we need a plan to keep her growing at her current school. The school is not big enough to do pull outs for the high achieving kids, and apparently that's not the preferred way to handle them anymore, anyway. Maybe she'll get a teacher who finds a way to keep her challenged, but maybe she won't. I'd like to have some ideas about what to do if she still says she's bored.

I don't care so much about the boredom. Learning to accept a little boredom is an OK thing. But I do care that she gets to grow her skills as fast as she wants. Here are the ideas I've come up with so far:

  • More challenging independent reading, both in Spanish and English. She likes this idea. Her teacher from last year just lent her Anne of Green Gables in Spanish, which I think will be more of a stretch for her than her usual Spanish picks. And tonight, when we went to Barnes and Noble to get the latest paperback in the Land of Stories series (which she loves), she decided she also wanted to buy a copy of War and Peace (in English). I'm curious to see what she makes of that. She said if she thought it was too hard, she'd just put it on the shelf for awhile.
  • More non-fiction independent reading. She's game for this, but we're having a hard time finding books at the right level. The things we find are all too easy or too hard. I need to do some research.
  • Focus more on music. I think I channeled some of my energies into getting better at music at this age, and that is something that served me well over the years. Coincidentally, 5th grade is when the school band program begins, so she could conceivably be working on two instruments next year (piano and whatever she picks for band).
  • Bump up the intensity of our Chinese lessons. We do really low key Chinese lessons. We started before we got into the Spanish school, and we've kept them because the kids like them. We could ask the teacher to assign homework or something like that.
  • Try a programming course. She's not shown a lot of interest in programming, but she does like building new things in a couple of her favorite games (Geometry Dash and Roblox).  I could figure out what those actually are and see if we could parlay that into some programming interest.
  • Find more academically oriented or otherwise skill-building summer camps. She likes this idea but I hate it because it complicates summers more than they already are. But it is probably worth considering.
That's what I have so far. I'll keep thinking over the summer. Additional ideas welcome in the comments. Next time I'm in the mood to mom blog, I'll write about Petunia. There are things I'm thinking about for her, too, but at least she's not bored at school yet (she's still in the phase in which the language learning is keeping her busy).

Friday, June 09, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Mostly Not about Comey Edition

It was a beautiful day for a rollerblade today, marred only by the fact that I got to the parking lot by the bay and realized I'd left my socks at home. I went back to get them, and consoled myself with the fact that the extra driving meant I got to listen to more of Pod Save America's reaction to the Comey hearings.

(I like Pod Save America a lot, but I think it is probably only palatable to liberals like myself. However, the companion show Pod Save the World I can recommend to everyone. It is about foreign policy, and while it has a slant towards Democrats both in the host's viewpoint and in who he gets as guests, I think it would be informative to anyone. I would listen to the Republican-leaning equivalent, for instance. This week's episode of Pod Save the World was particularly good: the guest was former US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daadler, and he talked a lot about the limits on what we can do in places like Libya and Syria. I recommend it highly.)

OK, back to my regular links post.

First up, the blatant self promotion. My latest book, Hemmed In, came out on Wednesday. You can read about it and find all the purchase links in Wednesday's post. Thank you to everyone who has already bought it.

I'm also giving away two copies of Missed Chances, my first taster flight anthology, over at Tungsten Hippo.

Now, on to the links.

If you read only one link, make it this story about the kids who survived the school shooting in Townville, South Carolina. It will make you cry and want to hug your kids. But I think it is important not to look away from these stories. It is not true that there is nothing we can do about mass shootings, even if we can't find the political will to change our gun laws. Here is an old Mother Jones story that talks about some of things people are doing. Of course, we could also change our gun laws. There is a lot of room between where we are now and infringing on people's second amendment rights. We could explore that space if the NRA and its supporters were willing to discuss it, or the rest of us were willing to out vote them. We can also work to change our culture about guns. In this shooting, a 14 year old was able to access the family's gun and enough ammunition to commit a mass shooting with no impediment. You could change that without affecting the adult gun owner's right to the weapon at all.

OK, moving on.

Here's another story (warning: video) that made me very, very sad. It is the story of a man who was deported from the only country he has ever known because his adoptive parents failed to fill out some paperwork. Watching the story, I just kept thinking about how many times America failed this man. Note that his deportation process started in the Obama era. We need to fix our immigration laws. Another problem that is stuck in political limbo because some people refuse to negotiate at all and the rest of us haven't found the will to out vote them.

Adam Serwer wrote about the myth around Robert E. Lee and why statues honoring him should come down, and then followed up with a piece responding to some of his critics. These two pieces are really worth your time.

Claire McCaskill's questions to Orin Hatch, the chair of the Finance Committee, about the process being used for the current health care bill are really good. We're relying on rumors to figure out what is going to be in the Senate version of the bill, because they won't tell us.

Vox continues its really strong reporting on the health care debate with a visit to talk to some Kentucky voters who are on Obamacare, disappointed in how Trump and the Republicans are changing it... and  many of them planning to continue voting for their Republican representatives, anyway.

I saw a lot of venom aimed at these people on Twitter, and while I understand where that comes from, I think we should all take a step back and ask ourselves how easily we would change our party preferences. Our party allegiance is often integrated into our sense of identity. (Ezra Klein had a good piece exploring this recently.) This has gotten more pronounced in recent years. We can argue about what caused that (I personally think Fox News deserves some of the blame), but we also have to face the reality of it, and recognize that it is going to lead to things like people voting for the representative who voted to take away their health care. We can't change that outcome by ridiculing them. We can either look for ways to change their minds, or we can look for ways to outvote them.

Honestly, I think this politics-as-identity thing is part of why we can't make progress on guns or immigration, too. It is a huge problem right now. I have no idea how to fix it.

If you are interested in thinking about how to change people's minds... here's an essay from someone who changed her mind, and it is worth reading.

If you have any stomach at all for revisiting the reasons for the outcome of the 2016 election... here is a piece about some research into developing questions to assess "modern sexism" and how where someone falls on this scale relates to how they voted.

I have limited patience for revisiting the reasons for the 2016 outcome, but found the research interesting. My Twitter feed occasionally still devolves into a fight between "Bernie would have won" and Hillary supporters and I am so, so tired of it. I hope neither Hillary nor Bernie runs again. I think it is time for new leaders. Hillary seems to be settling into a role in which she reaches out and offers support to prominent women who are getting grief from jerks (e.g., Kim Weaver, the woman who dropped out of the race to replace Iowa Rep. Steve King, citing death threats and other intimidation). That seems like a great role for her. I don't want her to disappear. I think she has valuable experience and can still do a lot of good. But let's get some new people in the race for 2020.

Since I'm on a Vox-linking tear, I'll add Matt Yglesias' explainer of the debt ceiling fight we may be about to have.

I think you can all find coverage of Comey's testimony and the like on your own. But I will share this quote:




And here are some pictures of a cute bunny:




And here are some more bunnies because I think we all need more cute bunnies in our life:




Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Release Day for Hemmed In

I picked a bad day to be the release day for my latest entry in the Annorlunda Books Taster Flight series. Everyone is distracted by the upcoming Comey testimony (and just released opening statement), and I don't blame them. In fact, if I could redirect some of the attention away from that, I'd direct it to the fact that the Senate is preparing to vote on their version of the AHCA, and we still don't know what is in it.

But, June 7 was the day I picked, and anyway, there is always something more important distracting people right now. It is a tough time to be trying to build a business that depends in part on getting people's attention.

Still, you're reading this! So I have your attention, and I can tell you about Hemmed In. It is my fourth "taster flight" of classic short stories, and I think it is my favorite. I liked the other three a lot, but this one wins because it has a story that latched on to me when I first read it and has stayed in my mind ever since.



I first read Susan Glaspell's A Jury of Her Peers when I was looking for stories for Missed Chances, my first Taster Flight. It did not fit that theme, but I loved the story, and it has stayed with me, popping into my mind for time to time, ever since. It is the story of two women called to come collect things for a farm wife who is in jail on suspicion of murdering her husband... and to tell you more than that would ruin it.

I keep a spreadsheet of potential stories to use in anthologies, and I eventually realized that I had several stories gathered that would fit a theme about women's lives and the aspects of those lives that men don't always understand: Edna Ferber's The Leading Lady and Mary Lerner's Little Selves were also on my list at that point. I knew I could add The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Gilman Perkins, a classic story read by many people in college women's studies or women's literature classes. I never read it in college, but a lot of my friends (and my sister!) had and recommended it to me when they heard about the Taster Flights.

I revisited some of the other collections of old stories that I had on my Kindle, and found Kate Chopin's A Pair of Silk Stockings. Hemmed In still seemed too short, so I decided to add The Bohemian Girl, by Willa Cather, another story I really love. It may be my favorite thing I've ever read by Willa Cather.

I love all the stories in this anthology, and I think that reading them together makes them even better. The idea behind the "taster flight" concept is that just like I notice new things about a beer when I taste it as part of a flight with other beers, I notice new things about a story when I read it as part of a collection of other stories. For instance, I noticed a new detail upon re-reading The Leading Lady after recently reading The Yellow Wallpaper.

If you want to read the stories and see what I mean, you could theoretically go read each one online. They are in the public domain! But for a mere $2.99 you can get my nicely formatted versions on your ereader, from one of these fine retailers:



There is also a paperback, available at Amazon and Createspace right now, and coming to other vendors (BN.com, IndieBound) soon.

If you want to help me spread the word, you can share this post, or you can share the Annorlunda Books release day post or my Tungsten Hippo post. The book is also on GoodReads, so you can add it to your shelves. So many options!

Thanks for taking a break from the political maelstrom with me!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Cosmopolitan Edition

So, we're leaving the Paris agreement. I am not surprised. I don't even think we can really blame this one entirely on Trump: a large group of Republicans have been opposed to doing anything to address climate change for a long time.

I am sad about the decision, though. I don't know that it will have much impact on what the US actually does about climate change: states and cities are already leading efforts to decrease our carbon footprint, and so are a lot of American companies. Most of the impact of the Trump administration on the environment will be due to less flashy decisions: regulations gutted, public lands put up for sale.

But the decision will still have some impact, and I think that impact will reach beyond climate. It contributes to a lessening of America's standing in the world. I know some might think I am exaggerating, but....




From my conversations with my friends around the world, I'd say that is a fairly accurate representation of how we are viewed right now.

I think Jeet Heer has this right:




And William Gibson made a similar observation:




Now, I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing in the long run if we end up in a more multi-polar world, where the US doesn't have such outsize influence. But one of the things I find most darkly amusing about this entire mess is that there is a huge overlap between people who were most worried about the standing of the US and tended to fret about "the rise of China" and things like that and people whose vote in the last election most hastened the decline of the US.

I don't care about the decline in US power, but I do care about the decline in the ideals we once championed, however imperfectly. David Roberts had a good piece on that in response to Trump's decision. He discusses a debate between tribalism and something he calls cosmopolitanism. I don't think cosmopolitanism is really the best word for it, but it is also the word that Gianpiero Petriglieri used in a piece last December that I also really liked. So I guess that's the word to use.

Whatever word, I'm on that side. I want a world that is less tribal. I want a world where the random luck of where you were born has less influence on the outcome of your life. I want a world where people from all parts work together to make things better for everyone. Our global institutions are clunky and imperfect, but instead of tearing them down and retreating into our tribes, I wish we'd try to improve them and work through the difficult problems and our inevitable disagreements with words, not weapons.

I think the feeling that my country is pulling away from that vision might be what is alienating me from it the most in the aftermath of Trump's election. I want to be part of the global community, and I am increasingly unsure of whether I will be living here. I hadn't realized that this was part of the unease I'm feeling until I read Roberts' piece. I haven't worked through the questions it raised for me, but it is something to ponder.

Moving on to other topics....

If you only read one thing in my links list this week, make it Jamelle Bouie's article about the wave of racist violence we're living through. He puts it in its historical context, and explains how the rise of intolerance in politics is historically linked to a rise in racist violence.

Rebecca Solnit's piece about Trump is really good.

I think Josh Marshall is right: there really is not innocent explanation for Jared Kushner's attempt to set up secret communications with Moscow. I still think that the fire in the midst of all this smoke is more likely to be tied up with debt and shady real estate deals than with anything ideological, but I keep coming back to the quote from former CIA director Brennan: "Frequently, individuals on a treasonous path do not even realize they're on that path until it gets to be too late." 

If you live in California, you might be interested in this article about teaching the truth about California's missions. I had a fourth grader this year, so just finished navigating this history with her. I hope I did a fair job. I feel like her school did a pretty good job: one of their field trips was to get a presentation from a local tribe member about what Kumeyaay life was like before the Spanish came, and how the missions changed that. I am sure there is still room for improvement, but the report she produced felt like a better way to learn about the subject than the traditional "build a mission" approach.

This series of tweets was a definite lolsob moment:


And that's all I have today.

Except, I meant to say that I am still looking for advance readers for Hemmed In. Sign up if you're interested!

And a bunny. Obviously, you need a bunny:




Happy weekend, everyone



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Good Things

I don't know about you, but I could use a reminder of some of the things that make me happy. So that's what this post is.

My birthday was last weekend. We had a nice, low key celebration for it. Both kids got me very thoughtful gifts, but I want to show you the art project that was part of Petunia's gift. It is a tree:

My current favorite tree.
She wrote reasons she loves me on the leaves. And because this was once a parenting blog and I still use it as a way to remember details about our lives, I feel justified in sharing the list of reasons my 7 year old loves me. There is one piece of paper in the middle that says "I love you because you are my mom," and then the leaves elaborate. Each leaf starts with "I love you because...." Here are the things that finished that sentence:


  1. You help me with my projects
  2. You make the best pizza
  3. You help me with my reading and writing
  4. You make me feel better when I am sad
  5. You play badminton with me
  6. You taught me how to be polite in public
  7. You made me alive
  8. You give me the best cuddles
Needless to say, I love this gift. 

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When I first moved to San Diego, I was struck by how many flowers there were. I'd grown up in Arizona. I think the desert of my home state is beautiful. But there weren't as many flower gardens. 

Over the years, I've gotten so used to the flowers that I don't really notice them. This year, though, I'm noticing them. I don't know if that is because the heavier than usual rains mean there are more flowers than usual, or if I'm just more inclined to notice for some reason. I will try to notice again next year, though, because it is making me smile a lot. 

In particular, the jacaranda trees are spectacular this year. Here is a not very good picture of one large and glorious example.

I took this on our walk home from school today.
It was a typical May Gray day, but I still can't complain.
One street I drive on when I drive Petunia to her art class is lined with jacarandas. A couple of weeks ago, they were all in their peak bloom and it was gorgeous. The trees are mostly past peak bloom now, but they are still quite nice.

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I discovered I had a bunch of credits at Stitch Fix, so I ordered a box. It wasn't a resounding success, which is perhaps not surprising given how long it has been since I last had a box. It was like they were starting from scratch in terms of sizing and style.

But, there was a pair of blue shorts in that box that are simply wonderful. They also sent some gold earrings, which I need. So I'm calling it a success. 

-------------------------

Hmmm, I thought I'd have more good things to share. I have a lot of good things in progress, work-wise. I saw early drafts of pictures for my next children's book, and I liked them. I finished formatting Hemmed In. The three books I bought at the beginning of the year are all progressing towards publication. So I should have more things to share soon. For now, though, I guess I'll just be happy with my "I love you" tree, the jacarandas, and a really great pair of shorts.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Not Really a Work Day Edition

I had the kids home with me today, because our school district takes a four day weekend for Memorial Day. I worked this morning, or tried to. The kids were in the mood to fight with each other, and when they weren't fighting, they were interrupting me. So it wasn't my most productive morning ever. I quit even trying to work at lunch, and took them to the library and then to the skate rink. I rather enjoy the skate rink. It isn't as much fun as a rollerblade by the bay, but that wasn't an option today, and the rink is the next best thing. I skated with Petunia, while Pumpkin and a friend of hers skated and talked. I like watching the tween girls at the rink. They're all having a lot of fun, and are carefree and happy. It is nice to see.

Anyway, my work day was short and not very productive, and I only have a few minutes to get this post out before I need to start dinner. I'll have to find a time this weekend to try to get some work done. I'm struggling with the paperback cover of Hemmed In, my next Taster Flight collection. I keep failing to get the spine text in the right place, and I'm running out of time to get it right. I need to get a proof ordered! But I'll get it done, and I think the June 7 release date will stick. If you're interested in being an advance reader for this book, sign up here. I should have the ebook files ready to send out sometime next week.

On to the links:

Rebecca Traister's new interview with Hillary Clinton is worth your time.

So is Brian Beutler's take on what the Gianforte mess means.

But if you only read one of my links this week, make it Mitch Landrieu's speech on taking down Confederate memorials in New Orleans. It is brilliant and inspiring and I want more like this, please.

This look at when different cities will reach climate departure is really sobering. Climate departure is the point at which the coldest year in the new normal is warmer than the warmest year in the old normal. It isn't all that far away.

"My friend died $50 short"- why a GoFundMe campaign is no substitute for health insurance.

The Montana special election is over, but there will be more elections, and as this thread explains, the Native population has obstacles to voting:




You can donate to Western Native Voice to try to alleviate those obstacles.

Catherine Newman's post about being angry and being polite and being confused by it all rings really, really true to me.

Something happy to end on: some slides I'll have to seek out next time I visit San Francisco.

And of course, a bunny!




Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Down, Down, Down We Go, Where We'll Stop, Nobody Knows

By the time you read this, we'll probably know the results of the Montana special election. As I'm writing it, though, we do not. We do know that Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate assaulted a reporter on the final afternoon of campaigning. The reporter had previously published an unflattering story about that candidate's investments in Russian companies under sanction by the US. The reporter was attempting to ask the candidate about the CBO report on the health care bill that was passed by the House Republican majority that the candidate is running to join. And we know that the candidate lied about the assault in a statement, and that a lot of Conservative commentators defended both the assault and the lie.

We know that most Republican elected officials have avoided comment on this topic, because let's be honest, we also know that if he wins the election, they will of course support him. All that matters is that R after his name. We know that spme Republican voters in Montana have told reporters that they don't care about the assault and think the reporters perhaps also deserve to be assaulted. And we know that the campaign says they raised more than $100,000 in the final day of the campaign, much of that after the news of the assault broke.

My reaction to all of this is just profound sadness. I am sad for my country. I am sad for the people who have so lost their sense of morals that they think a candidate's unprovoked assault on a journalist doing his job is not just not a problem, but an actual good thing. I am sad for a batch of Republican leaders who seem to have no principles beyond party power and cutting taxes for wealthy people.

Of course, none of this can be truly considered surprising anymore, given all the other horrible behavior that we're just shrugging off these days.

I want to ask the people defending Gianforte where the line is. They were OK with Trump calling the press the enemy of the people. They are OK with Gianforte actually assaulting a reporter. Where is the line, past which they will say that behavior is not OK?

How much will they tolerate in their pursuit of lower taxes and what they call "Christian values"? (Scare quotes because I don't think assaulting reporters should be considered "Christian values.")

And, then there is that CBO report. It was as bad as expected, and as Kevin Drum has pointed out, actually highlights that despite the supposed protections for people with pre-existing conditions who keep continuous coverage, if you live in a state that requests a waiver on the community rating provision and you have a pre-existing condition, you'll probably end up priced out of the non-group health insurance market even if you keep continuous coverage.

I have to admit, that last bit is weighing particularly heavily on me, for reasons I discussed a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I live in California, which is extremely unlikely to request a waiver. But what it would mean in practice is that if Mr. Snarky got a job offer in, say, Wisconsin (a state whose governor has said he'd probably seek a waiver), we'd have to consider my health insurance options before he took it. And I keep thinking about all of the people who live in states likely to request a waiver, and how they may find themselves facing a decision about whether to start looking to move. And all the people who will lose coverage outright because of the changes to Medicaid. I hate that we're doing this.

And I keep thinking of the fact the people pushing these unpopular, extreme ideas are not done. Trump's budget, although essentially dead on arrival at Congress, shows us that. They want to cut disability insurance, and food stamps, and on and on and on. And they will keep trying not to investigate the disturbing Russian interference in our election or the many problems happening with the intermingling of Trump's company and our national government to protect their chance to push through these unpopular ideas.

Again, I wonder, how far down do we go? How much evidence of collusion will we ignore? How many unethical business deals will we accept? How much corruption will we pretend we don't see? How much tax money will we let flow to Trump's businesses?

I keep thinking of this tweet I saw during the election:




I am fighting against feeling fatalistic about all of this. According to Nate Silver and his colleagues at 538, polling data indicates that Trump's base is eroding. I also listened to one of Ana Marie Cox's With Friends Like These podcasts that gave me some hope. It was the discussion with Ben Howe, and I can't really summarize it, except to say that I wish the people like him, and Evan McMullin, and David Frum, and so on would either start a movement to take back the Republican party or start a new party. Analysis and discussion is great, but I won't really believe it matters until I see some of the current group of Republicans getting primaried. I sincerely hope this happens. I cannot make it happen, because I do not support even the "normal" Republican positions. But the situation now seems to be that the Republican party is an unholy alliance between people who want extreme cuts to government programs and taxes, the theocratic right, and white supremacists, with each group willing to overlook the excesses of the others as long as they have some hope of achieving their own policy goals.

I have to say, from where I sit, it is a horrifying monster. I am not in the position to fight it from the inside, so I am expending my energy on trying to beat it at the ballot box. But as long as it exists, it will be a threat to our country. None of those groups has anywhere near a majority on its own, but if they keep their mutual assistance pact, they can get in power, especially if the more moderate people who sort of agree with their positions but wouldn't take them quite that far continue to hold their noses and support them. And that's sort of normal for our political system! It is a system that forces coalitions. But the members of this particular coalition are so extreme. It would be like me deciding to vote for someone who wants to nationalize our oil companies because I agree with them on raising the minimum wage, and doing so even though I knew another group in the coalition wanted to outlaw Christmas, and a third group was going to try to send all people of German descent "home" to Germany. It boggles my mind.

And so we continue to hurtle downwards. I hope we reach the limit of the moderates' ability to ignore the stench soon.

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